1996. With almost no planning I buy a new car. Takes me about 10 minutes to decide on a Thunderbird. My wife brings the kids up while I’m signing the papers. I’m back outside, salesman’s kissing me goodbye and the kids are all crawling through the new car, exploring. My son makes a cool Discovery! He pushed a button on the dash — below the ashtray — and this little platform with these 2 holes in it pops out. He knows what it is instantly and stands up on the driver’s seat — whole body leaning out the window — and yells: “Hey Dad! They got a place in here to hold your Beer while you’re drivin’!”
My son was five. He didn’t know who the President was, or how many days in September. Hell, he couldn’t say the days of the week in order. In fact, if you made a list of everything that kid didn’t know, it would be pretty impressive. But he knew his Father could not drive 5 miles down the road — to so much as pick his own kids up from day care — without a beer in the car. By the time he was five, my son knew that that was perfectly normal. I’d taught him that.
By teaching my children that this was “normal”, I had effectively given them a death sentence. They were going to drink like me, Because their Dad was the coolest guy in the world. They were eventually going to drive down the road with alcohol in their system. When all the subsequent consequences came down, it would be because of lessons they’d learned at their Father’s knee.
When I entered A.A. and achieved some sobriety — when I brought them to meetings for the first time at ages 2 to 6 — I gave them a reprieve from that death sentence. Now they may or may not drink or drug or whore around or gamble or do all those things that people like us think are so much fun, but if at any time it becomes a problem for them, they know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that 12 step programs work. Their Daddy don’t drink no more.
What a valuable lesson to be responsible for! My wife had nothing to do with imparting that piece of knowledge to the children; she does everything in moderation, right by the book. the lesson she lives and breathes is “Be Happy, Healthy, Responsible and Respectable”. My wife (now ex-) teaches them every day how to live the right way — so that negative consequences are minimized — but the disaster recovery plan is 100% mine.
That’s good, because I have no idea — or control over — what kind of afflictions my children may have. It’s a different world. I had to work my ass off to get a peek at a Playboy when I was growing up. Kids these days can download more hardcore porn in an hour than I saw before I was 21. There are better drugs coming out of doctors offices — and more addictive — than we could get from the ‘hood.
Must have been 10 or 12 years ago, I was sitting in a doctor’s office, and there was a mother and daughter talking across the way. I don’t know who they were talking about, but I’m guessing it was another child, cousin or what-not. The mother was saying: “She’s out of control!! She’s Crazy! That girl has some Serious Problems!”
The daughter — who couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 — thought about it for a minute and said: “Yeah… She could use an Anger Management class.”
What a Beautiful Thing! To be able to recognize a problem, put a name on it, and know that there’s a solution! That’s pretty important.
I was born into a society with concepts like “the American Dream“, “say the Magic Word” and “Get-out-of-Jail-Free“, and it turned out to be bullshit. I was told there were going to be no problems, that I had a right to be happy all the time. Then, when bad things happened, I didn’t think: “How can I fix this, make it better”, I just felt cheated.
I found a way to be happy all the time, but it was even more of an illusion. Therein lies the problem: my solution. Looking back at all the problems I’ve had in life — and the way I’ve chosen to solve them — I have to say that my solutions caused me more pain than the problems.
Here are some concrete examples.
- My job wasn’t paying me as much as I thought I was worth, and I needed a fat raise before they got all I had to offer, so I started doing less. Figured I was still giving them their money’s worth. Come review time, the boss took my percentage, and split it among the others. Said I wasn’t even worth what I was already making.
- I was feeling stressed about my job, because I wasn’t performing very well, so I got drunk to relax. I woke up late the next day and wasn’t worth a shit when I got there.
- I joined a gym to get in shape. I wanted to improve my health. After 6 months I wasn’t where I wanted to be, so I started using steroids, which destroyed my health.
- My girlfriend wasn’t giving me 100% of the love I needed from her, so I started spending more time with my friends. Even other women. She decided she wasn’t getting enough from me and upgraded. Then I had 0%.
And on and on…
So when I got to Alcoholics Anonymous, they told me there is a solution, and that the first clue that it might be a good solution is that I didn’t come up with it. I’ve long since come to believe that my fear and my ego stand between me and the solution. The steps are designed to reduce my fear and ego. In the mean time — while I’m waiting (and working) for that to happen — I’m letting a whole room full of people get to know me. They offer me solutions when I present my problems; solutions that work.
I complained once that I wasn’t getting anything from prayer and meditation. It wasn’t there for me. A man asked me: “What do you think prayer is?”
I said: “Just like… I don’t know… talking to God?”
“OK. and what do you think meditation is?”
“I don’t know… probably listening to God?”
“Well then, when you come in and talk to a ‘Group of drunks’, and listen when they give ‘Good orderly direction’, maybe you’re doing it as well as you can. Maybe that’s as good as it’s going to get for you. Seems like you’re doing all right.”
But, of course, my problem is that I want more. See where my mind goes? I have a working solution, and I immediately abandon it because my pride tells me I need more.
So, for the newcomer, merely be aware that there is a solution. It may not be the solution that you want. Implementation of the solution may not leave your pride intact — you might not be able to save your face and your ass at the same time — but it is a solution that works.
The only question you have to ask yourself is: “How’s the solution I’ve been using working?”.